2011 MLB Predictions: Identifying the Biggest Weaknesses of All 30 Teams
No team is perfect.
Even with a starting rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt, the Phillies are not a lock for the Fall Classic.
The Yankees won the World Series two years ago, but their rotation now consists of just two men.
Pittsburgh... well, the less said about the Pirates, the better.
Every team has weaknesses. Here are some of them.
Atlanta Braves: Bullpen
The Braves’ 2010 pen was very good, posting a 3.11 ERA, the third best mark in the Major Leagues.
However, with the offseason departure of Takashi Saito and the retirement of Billy Wagner, the 2011 incarnation will look different.
Craig Kimbrel will likely take over as closer, but at only 22, he is far from a sure thing.
Even if he performs well, the Braves could do with adding some additional arms in middle relief.
Florida Marlins: Setup Man, Middle Relief
The Marlins have a very good rotation which might be considered ‘great’ in another division.
They also have a good closer in Leo Nunez. The bridge between the two is their biggest concern.
The most likely scenario would be acquiring an eighth inning guy, and leave Nunez at the back, but they could switch the two.
Without that extra man, though, their seventh and eighth innings are going to be shaky.
New York Mets: Back of Rotation
Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Jonathon Niese and Chris Young will be the top four starters, but the latter pair – and the fifth starter, whoever it is – are not locks to be on the mound for six innings.
This will put more strain on the bullpen, and with figures such as Boof Bonser and Pat Misch sitting by the phone, it does not look promising in Flushing.
Philadelphia Philles: Bullpen
This is almost by default. With the addition of Cliff Lee, the Phillies solidified their claim to the best rotation in baseball.
Their lineup is, of course, brilliant.
Their relievers, however, struck up an ERA over 4 last season.
Brad Lidge bounced back very well from his 0-8, 7.21 ERA 2009 campaign, but now there is the fear he is susceptible to another collapse.
Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras finished the season well, but they, JC Romero and Antonio Bastardo could have quite a few 3-1 and 4-1 leads to protect.
Washington Nationals: Starting Rotation
He has pitched in just 12 games in his career, but Stephen Strasburg might be the most-missed Nationals player since the franchise left Montreal.
With the young star out for the year after Tommy John surgery, the Nationals’ rotation looks very bad indeed.
Livian Hernandez has had a sub-4 ERA once since 2005. John Lannan’s WHIP was almost 1.6 last year. Jordan Zimmerman is the wrong kind of Zimmerman.
Oh well, maybe Jayson Werth can propel them past the Braves and Phillies. And Marlins. And Mets.
Or, there is always next year.
Chicago Cubs: Pitching
The Cubbies posted a 4.24 ERA last season.
Only three NL teams – the Pirates, Brewers and Diamondbacks – were worse.
They have some serviceable young talent in Randy Wells, but the loss of Tom Gorzelanny makes them weaker still.
Cincinnati Reds: Pressure
The Reds are an all-around solid team.
They have a good rotation, a good lineup highlighted by the reigning MVP and a serviceable, albeit shaky, relief corps.
Their biggest problem is that they had a great 2010, reaching the postseason for the first time since 1995.
After spending the entire last decade without a 90-win season, the Reds came roaring back into contention.
Now they will go into Spring Training with their fans expecting a playoff run.
Houston Astros: First Base
The Astros are probably a few years away from seriously competing, but Carlos Lee highlights one of the most obvious areas in need of improvement.
Lee was shuffled between first and left, and the only impressive number he put up was his salary.
Milwaukee Brewers: Late Reliever
At this point in the offseason, obviously it is more likely that the Brewers will acquire a setup guy, rather than a closer.
They do need someone though. John Axford is good, with a 160 ERA+ and 1.19 WHIP last year, but he cannot do it alone.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ownership
Are the Pirates the worst-run team in MLB?
You do not post eighteen consecutive below-.500 seasons if you are run by someone who has a clue what to do.
The Pirates have developed an uncanny knack for trading away every decent player they have – except Andrew McCutchen, but give it time.
Fortunately, their scouting department is so poor, it is rare they draft someone good.
St Louis Cardinals: Third Base
With one of the best one-two punches at the top of their rotation and Albert Pujols in the heart of their lineup, the Cards are already a strong team.
If one has to point the finger at a weak spot, it would be third. Sorry, David Freese, but you are no Scott Rolen.
He had a good 2010 as a rookie, batting .296 in 70 games. There is a lot of room for improvement, though, and still some options for St. Louis at the hot corner.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Pitching
Their lineup is nothing to write home about, but at least the D-Backs were better than average with the bat in 2010. On the mound, they were woeful.
A 5.16 ERA was better than only Pittsburgh and Kansas City, and only the former managed to top their 97 losses.
Only Ian Kennedy and Barry Enright kept their ERAs below 4 and no one made it into double figures in wins. Then one looks at the bullpen.
With a check-it-to-make-sure-it’s-not-a-typo earned run average of 5.74 (over a run worse than anyone else), their relief corps was by far the weakest in MLB.
Their 32 losses were most in the league and they were one of only four bullpens to allow more than 40% of runners to score.
Colorado Rockies: There Is Only One Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez pitched to a 2.88 ERA.
Only one other Rockie managed a mark below 4.
They do not need four more Ubaldos, but someone better than Aaron Cook would be nice.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Offense, Outfield, Ownership
The Dodgers are already going to struggle to compete with the Rockies and defending champion Giants in 2011, but with no strong option at either corner outfield position and the most distracting owner in the sport, they pretty much have no chance.
San Diego Padres: No Adrian Gonzalez
With hometown hero Gonzalez traded to Boston in the offseason, the Padres’ already-weak lineup lost its only great player.
Even with the second-best team ERA in the Majors last season, San Diego missed the playoffs.
Without that 40-homer threat, they will really struggle this year.
San Francisco Giants: Replacing Juan Uribe
Of course, Uribe is not a great loss to a team, despite his brilliance down the stretch.
He batted a paltry .248 and his 24 home runs are somewhat made up for by the acquisition of Miguel Tejada.
Nonetheless, the Giants lineup is shaky at the best of times, and Uribe provided almost 600 fairly solid plate appearances at four different positions.
Baltimore Orioles: NYY, BOS Are Still Better
What is meant by that, is that, although they are vastly improved over 2010, one would be hard-pushed to find any member of the Baltimore squad one would take over his New York or Boston equivalent.
They are taking steps in the right direction, but the Yankees and Red Sox are still too strong.
Boston Red Sox: Back of Rotation
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are two of the best young pitchers in the game.
Josh Beckett and John Lackey are two of the highest-paid pitchers in the game, and both are coming off very disappointing seasons.
Beyond the top two, one does not know what to expect from the Sox’ starters.
And even with the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, you will not win many games if your SP has an ERA over five.
New York Yankees: Back of Rotation
If Boston’s rotation is worryingly uncertain, New York’s is worryingly thin.
CC Sabathia will be in the running for the Cy Young yet again, and Phil Hughes could take another step towards being great this season, but there is no reason to get excited about the Yankees’ starters.
Tampa Bay Rays: They Let Everybody Leave
They signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. That is how bad things are in Tampa.
Toronto Blue Jays: Too Reliant on The Home Run
It would be very easy simply to write “They play in the AL East,” because barring a catastrophic series of injuries to the Sox and Yanks, the Blue Jays are still going to be stuck below the big two.
Their side is a very good one, although it remains to be seen if Bautista can replicate his 54 home run 2010.
The Jays hit 257 home runs last year. That was 46 more than the second-placed Red Sox, and 103 more than the league average.
Cleveland Indians: Infield
Only three made it into double figures in home runs and only two batted at least .265.
One was Matt Grudzielanek, who only took the field 30 times.
The Indians have Shin-Soo Choo and Austin Kearns in a solid outfield, but around the diamond, their offense is severely lacking.
Chicago White Sox: Bullpen
There is a growing feeling around the White Sox that they could challenge the Twins this season.
That might hinge on whether or not their pen can be trusted.
They have good pitchers in Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain, but none are a sure thing and they could easily implode.
Detroit Tigers: Outfield
The Tigers and Orioles could compete for ‘most improved team’ in 2011, but their side is not perfect.
One glaring area of need is the outfield. Specifically, a speedster. The Tigers were 24th worst in stolen bases last year, swiping just 69, a full 30 below the ML average.
Kansas City Royals: Ownership
Royals owner David Glass must love revenue sharing.
If MLB were a truly free market system, Glass might be forced to run his team differently – perhaps he would not be running it at all.
As it stands, he can sit back, trade away every elite player KC has and be content in the knowledge that Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez costs more than his entire team.
Minnesota Twins: Middle Infield
The Twins lost an awful lot this winter. The departures of JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson have left them somewhat sparse up the middle.
There are strong reasons for their leaving: Hudson had a down year and Hardy would probably have been overpaid next season, but it does leave the Twins in a bit of a tight spot.
Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim: Catcher
By any metric, the Angels were an average team last season.
An 80-82 record, 4.33 runs allowed per game (ML avg. was 4.38), 4.20 runs scored per game (4.38) placed them very firmly in the middle of the road.
So it is hard to pick out one area in which they are especially weak. Catcher seems to be one, though.
With Mike Napoli gone, Jeff Mathis is now the natural selection behind the plate. That is mainly due to a lack of anybody else to play the position.
His career batting average, in 333 games, is just below the Mendoza line, at .199.
Add to that defensive struggles (7 E, 6 PB) and it is clear youngsters like Bobby Wilson will have a shot at landing the starting job in 2011.
That news is unlikely to make any Angels fans especially happy, but Mike Scioscia has few options.
Oakland Athletics: One Bat Short
Oakland had a fairly busy offseason, picking up David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham, and it has left them very close to serious contention.
Adrian Beltre might have been the guy to push them over the top, but he signed with division rival Texas.
It is fair to say that the A’s are one slugger (or, indeed, one breakout season from a current player) short of making a run at the AL West crown.
The Angels are still in transition, the Rangers have no Cliff Lee and… wait, is there a fourth team in the West?
Seattle Mariners: Offense
Oh, Seattle. After last season, forgetting about the M’s is merely a forgivable oversight.
Out of all 30 MLB teams, how did the Mariners fare in 2010?
Home runs: last
Batting average: last
OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+: last, last, last, last.
Anyway, only seven months to football season, eh?
To cheer up Seattle fans, here is a photo of Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch finishing off the Saints a few weeks ago.
Texas Rangers: An Ace
Would the Texas Rangers have won the American League pennant last year without Cliff Lee?
Will they win it again next year without Cliff Lee?
Nolan Ryan went hard after the free agent playoff phenom in the offseason but failed to entice him away from a return to Philly.
Now, the defending AL champs’ rotation is as questionable as it was before the July 31 trade for Lee.